Matthew Duss

Matthew Duss is president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace and a contributing writer for the Prospect. You can follow him on Twitter @mattduss.

Recent Articles

TODAY'S GO-TO VILLAINS.

Via Steve Clemons , a good short doc on Hollywood's vilification of Arabs. Among the many offensive images and representations in the program, the clip from Back to the Future is particularly ridiculous. The year was 1985, Muammar Khaddafi was being sold to us as the new Hitler , (this was several new Hitlers ago; since then we've had Saddam Hussein , Slobodan Milosevic , Osama bin Laden , Saddam Hussein again, with Mahmoud Ahmedinejad acting as the current new Hitler) and thus "Libyans" was offered as perfunctory shorthand for "villains." So as not to draw attention to themselves, the "Libyans" drive around wearing army fatigues and kaffiyehs . (You'll notice, or maybe you won't, that one of the clever "Libyans" is wearing a red-checked Jordanian kaffiyeh; is this intended as a disguise?) And then, of course, the "Libyans" are driving a VW bus, well known as preferred conveyance of your flag-burning, apple pie abjuring, third world liberation sympathizing hippie. And thus we have the...

ON MUQTADA GOING BACK TO SCHOOL.

Last month I briefly commented on reports that Muqtada al-Sadr has returned to his religious studies . This is a potentially significant enough development to merit a bit more. Contrary to reports like this one , Muqtada can't really "study to become an ayatollah," at least not in the way the story frames it. He can study to become a mujtahid , which means he is authorized to practice ijtihad , rational examination of the scriptures (coming from the same root as jihad , or struggle, in the sense that ijtihad is an intellectual struggle, the exertion of scholarly effort) and issue decisions, or fatwas , in response to questions posed by adherents. One achieves the rank of mujtahid through a fairly formalized course of study. To reach the rank of ayatollah, however, requires, in addition, a significant body of published scholarly work, a substantial following who recognize him as a marja al-taqlid ("source of emulation," a guide to correct Islamic practice), and, importantly,...

POPULISM FOR ME, FASCISM FOR THEE ...

Jesus' General shares this Jonah Goldberg gem from a recent NPR interview: Jonah Goldberg: The benefit of Bush’s compassionate conservatism [in 2000] was that it was majorly a marketing slogan… Alex Chadwick: You mean you’re worried Mike Huckabee might actually mean it? Goldberg: Yes, that’s what I’m terrified of. Sadly, No! interprets this in light of Goldberg's statement that "populism is a useful and healthy passion when aimed at the liberal elite." In other words: it’s cool to rile up the idiot vote by telling them that liberals want to ban Christmas, but helping them pay for their kids’ health care goes way, way over the line. Religion, in Jonah’s world, truly is the Cheetos bag of the masses. Indeed, this tracks pretty well with former White House official David Kuo 's experience , as described in his book Tempting Faith : Conservative elites openly scorn the working-class evangelicals whose fears they crassly manipulate in order to implement their pro-rich agenda. Meanwhile, on...

OF HICKS AND HOMELANDS.

Mike Huckabee , the candidate for transfer : When asked about a Palestinian state, Gov. Huckabee stated that he supports creating a Palestinian state, but believes that it should be formed outside of Israel. He named Egypt and Saudi Arabia as possible alternatives, noting that the Arabs have far more land than the Israelis and that it would only be fair for other Arab nations to give the Palestinians land for a state, rather than carving it out of the tiny Israeli state. Right, because it's not as if Palestinians have any connection to the land in which they've lived for generations. Git 'em up, move 'em on! You can imagine the response if a candidate were to suggest anything like this in regard to Israel: Abe Foxman 's tie would spin around, Commentary 's server would crash, and Marty Peretz would order James Kirchick to crush a paper cup. Also, that candidate's campaign would be over, and deservedly so. But this is America, and these are the Palestinians we're talking about, so...

WHAT WE NEED IS AWARENESS, WE CAN'T GET CARELESS.

I strongly recommend Brian Katulis 's article from yesterday. As he indicates, we are in a key moment for progressives on national security right now. Given the momentous and comprehensive failure of conservative ideology in the Middle East, progressives have an opportunity to redraw the boundaries of the national security debate in the U.S., and it's imperative that we recognize and make the most of it. Katulis offers some very smart suggestions on how to begin to do that. I think a big test for progressives is how we continue to deal with the myth of the surge . It's a tough one: people like hearing good news better than bad news, and tend to be more forgiving of sunny BSers than they are of hard truth-tellers. We're also confronted with an administration and a deep-pocketed neoconservative faction whose reputations are tied to Iraq, and who have proven time after time that they have no compunction about hiding behind the troops in order to advance astonishingly dishonest claims...

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